Wagner: Parsifal

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Parsifal
PERFORMER: Theo Adam, Fred Teschler, Ulrik Cold, René Kollo, Reid Bunger, Gisela Schröter
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1348-2 ADD
Those looking for the deep spiritual experience offered by a Hans Knappertsbusch or a Reginald Goodall will find little to detain them in this belated issue of an East German concert performance dating from 1975.

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Like Pierre Boulez, with whose account this shares many characteristics, Kegel prefers brisk tempi, turning the transformation music into an insouciant jaunt and draining even the Good Friday Music of its regenerative bloom.

Such an approach can’t be dismissed lightly, however. Where Kegel scores is in the precision of the orchestral playing and the natural musical (as opposed to musico-dramatic) momentum with which he propels the opera along. It works best, inevitably, in the charged hothouse exchanges of the Kundry/Parsifal altercation in Act II, where René Kollo (better here than on the Solti recording) and Gisela Schröter (as satisfying a Kundry as you could hope for) generate an appropriately desperate sense of erotic frisson (though if you really want to experience this, you should turn to Vittorio Gui’s 1950 Rome Radio account with Maria Callas, cut, and in Italian!).

Elsewhere this Parsifal is less convincing. Theo Adam brings his usual intelligent way with words to the role of Amfortas. It’s a pity that he wasn’t singing Gurnemanz (cleanly but superficially sung by Ulrik Cold). Reid Bunger is an adequate if unimaginative Klingsor.

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On its own terms, then, this is a perfectly decent Parsifal, but if you must have a mid-price version and want a change from the 1951 Knappertsbusch (Teldec 9031-76047-2), then try the Armin Jordan account on Erato (2292-45662-2), or better still the extraordinary Syberberg film (recently issued on video – Artificial Eye ART OP1) to which it serves as the soundtrack. Antony Bye